The timing of the announcement of this award could not be worse for Federer. Nothing about his recent performances points to the greatness implied by this honor. Or maybe the timing is perfect as this may be the pick-me-up that he so desperately needs.
So far 2008 has been nothing less than a disaster for Federer.
He started the year losing in straight sets in the semi-finals of the Australian Open to a player who is fast becoming his nemesis – Novak Djokovic. It is no surprise then that Djokovic has been honored 2007 Most Improved Player for the second straight year. It is a bit unusual for a player to receive this award two years running. But Djokovic deserves it – because he’s gotten that much better.
A week after losing to Djokovic in Australia, Federer lost to Andy Murray in Dubai, in the round of 32. That one hurt a bit, but I consoled myself with the fantasy that the sheiks probably paid him a pretty penny just for showing up.
Then Federer lost in straights sets to Mardy Fish in Indian Wells. That loss hurt the most because Federer has no business losing to the likes of Mardy Fish who is ranked #98. For an entire day after that match, I walked around holding my head and asking “he lost to Mardy Fish???” to anyone who would listen. I could not believe it.
Anyone happening across any of the above matches – not to mention his whorish performance against Pete Sampras at Madison Square Garden – would have every right to wonder what all the fuss is about. So far in 2008, Federer has been a ghost of his former self, a shadow of his greatness.
Rumors, some confirmed some not, have abounded to explain his apparent decline. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. If he can hold it together and win Miami, the year to date would have been redeemed. And perhaps a new fan running across one of his televised matches would be able to understand why he was dubbed ATP Player of the Year in 2007 as well as Laureas Sportsman of the Year.
For now you’ll just have to take my word for it that he deserved it.
To see the complete list of awardees, go here.